The State-owned TASMAC which deals with wholesale and retail sale of Indian made foreign liquor said on Friday that it would open all its shops from Saturday, except in Chennai and adjoining Thiruvallur districts which have a high incidence of Covid cases.
The TASMAC said the shops would be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p..m. and buyers would be given tokens in five colours to stagger sales to avoid crowding at the outlets and to maintain social distancing.
The high court had by an interim order of May 8 ordered the closure of these shops within two days of their reopening on the ground that the Government failed to control crowd ,and if allowed, liquor shops would emerge as another hotspots like the wholesale vegetable market Koyambedu in Chennai.
The Supreme Court, admitting the appeal by the Tamil Nadu government, on Friday vacated the interim stay.
Senior advocate Mokul Rohtagi and Additional Advocate-General Balaji Srinivasan, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, called the high court order arbitrary and unreasonable. “ Why should anyone need an aadhaar card to buy liquor”, he asked in reference to one of the conditions imposed by the high court.
He said opening of liquor shop was a policy decision in which no court could interfere. If liquor shops were closed, it would lead to loss of revenue, he contended. He also rejected the high court suggestion for online sale of liquor as not feasible and said it would lead to adulteration of liquor.
He also contended that the Tamil Nadu Liquor (License and Permit) Rules, 1981 did not provide for online sales. State would also have to amend the Tamil Nadu Liquor Retail Vending (In Shops and Bars) Rules of 2003, he argued.
A division bench of the apex court of Justices L Nageswara Rao, S K Kaul and B R Gavai froze all proceedings before the high court after hearing the submissions.
Within hours of the apex order, the Government announced most of the 3,500 liquor shops would start functioning except in Chennai and Tiruvallur, malls, market complexes and containment zones in different cities and towns.